Civil rights. Reproductive rights. Immigration. Environmental justice. Reducing fossil fuels. These are among the many reasons more than 70 Islanders showed up for the third annual women’s march on Martha’s Vineyard. Activists and demonstrators gathered at Five Corners in Vineyard Haven on Saturday, Jan. 19, at 1 pm. Gray skies, light flurries, and low temperatures called for a bundled, brisk walk along Beach Road. This was the first mobile march on Martha’s Vineyard, where demonstrators braved the cold to make the hour-plus trek from Five Corners to Washington Park in Oak Bluffs.
Event organizers Margaret Emerson, chair of the Chilmark Democratic committee, and Carla Cooper, founder of Indivisible MV, addressed the group splashed in pink. Their fingers with fingers wrapped around homemade signs.
“Why do we march?” Emerson asked through the echoes of a mini megaphone. “For civil rights and liberties … for cleaner air, immigration rights, racial and religious justice, reproductive rights … let’s pass the [Equal Rights Amendment].” Her words were met with cheers, beeps, and timely dog barks. “Let’s march,” Cooper said, and the group stepped off Five Corners.
“I feel like I need to do something to help save our democracy, country, and planet,” Deb Maher said, holding a sign in one hand and her Lab’s leash in the other. “We’ve lost sight of real American values.”
Nine-year-old Elysia Brown-Savastano held up ‘Trump’s Report Card’: “Respect … F; Spelling … F; Honesty … F; Math … F; Science … F. P.E. … F; Collusion … A+.”
“I’m marching because Trump doesn’t respect women of color,” Elysia said. “He doesn’t care about climate change, and he doesn’t know how to spell.” Elysia and mother Pamela Brown came to the march from Dartmouth because it was the only march in the state where they’d actually be able to march.
“I really like the walking part of this,” Susanna Sturgis, a Vineyard resident, said. “Especially in this kind of weather. It’s better than standing around. It’s also nice having two towns involved instead of just one.”
Many demonstrators commented on the progress the country has made since the first women’s march on Jan. 21, 2017, which took place the day after President Trump’s Inauguration in locations all over the country.
“People are working hard to keep democracy strong and the government on track,” Emerson said. “More people have gotten involved in making changes on the federal, state, and local level.”
“Two years ago, it was all about Trump,” Cooper said. “Now, it’s all about us. There’s been a monumental sweeping of grassroots activism.”
In the past two years, the country has elected 102 women to the House of Representatives, 13 to the U.S. Senate, and nine governors.
“It’s honestly been the most exhausting, yet exhilarating couple of years,” Cooper said. “But our work is far from over. It’ll never be over.”
There were fewer people at this year’s march compared with last, but that was true in locations all over the country. This march presented division among its original leadership. Founders Vanessa Rubel, Tamika Mallory, and Carmen Perez, who organized the first unified march in 2017, had a feud over race and religion. Rubel is white and Jewish, Mallory and Perez are women of color and support causes of Palestinian rights. There was disagreement as to who should be the leader of the march, which splintered into two rival groups organizing rival marches in New York City Saturday. But none of that was apparent on-Island.
“I actually found this march more positive,” Emerson said. “I think a year ago there was a lot more distress, and there’s still distress, but people are feeling better. I think this went really well.”
“I’m feeling really encouraged by the number of people who showed up, the energy seemed good and driven by enthusiasm,” Sturgis said.
“It’s hard to do things that matter,” Melissa Page, a Vineyard Haven resident, said. “Showing up matters.”